Canelo Alvarez: Ready or Not

By Robert Ecksel on June 15, 2011
Canelo Alvarez: Ready or Not
Saturday night's fight on HBO's Boxing After Dark is Alvarez's to lose

“While I will have to be at my best against Rhodes,” said Alvarez, “I expect to be ready for Manny next year…”

Champions aren’t born. Champions are made. They’re made in ghettos, barrios and favelas. They’re made on the streets. They’re also, in the case of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, made on farms. Genetics plays a part in the making of every champion, but environment trumps genetics. Most fighters fight because they have to fight. They fight for turf. They fight for respect. They fight to survive. And sometimes they fight because it’s what they do best.

WBC junior middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. When he was five his family moved to their current home, a farm in Juanacatlán. Following in his older brother’s footsteps, Alvarez started boxing when he was 13. He won the silver medal at the Junior Mexican National championships in 2004, and a year later became the 2005 Junior Mexican National Boxing Champion at the age of 15, when he turned pro.

With his record now standing at 36-0-1 (26 KOs), Alvarez defends his title against Ryan Rhodes (45-4, 31 KOs) Saturday night at Arena VFG in Tlajomulco de Zúñiga, Jalisco, Mexico, in a fight to be broadcast on HBO’s Boxing After Dark. Alvarez is being touted for greatness, both by HBO and his promoter Golden Boy Promotions, and greatness may come, but Alvarez, at age 20, is still young and still developing. He’s big and strong, and he has that pale skin, freckles, and red hair that everyone loves and sets him apart from the average Mexican. But Alvarez is a work in progress. He has yet to fight a marquee fighter, and boxing can be merciless when it comes to expectations. We won’t know where Alvarez is headed until and if he gets there, yet the man standing in his way, 34-year-old Ryan Rhodes, may ultimately represent less a serious challenge than a serious steppingstone.

“Look, even though I’m young,” said Alvarez on a recent telephone conference call,” I have a lot of experience. I have a lot of fights as well. So I have some experience. But look, I’m going to be ready for anything. Those first couple rounds, I’m going to be ready. I’m going to see what he brings to the table and I’ll be able to capitalize.”

The fight is Alvarez’s to lose and he should be able to capitalize on whatever Rhodes brings to the table. Although he isn’t blessed with uncanny speed or one-punch knockout power, Canelo should be able to wear down Rhodes, as he wore down all his other opponents.

“I’m very familiar with Ryan. I know that he’s a very strong fighter. He’s got great ring generalship,” Canelo said. “He likes to switch up a little bit. That’s a little awkward and he’s lefty. So more than anything, I’ve just got to be very careful with that. I think that he’s got a big punch and that’s what we’re working on.”

Rhode’s ring generalship comes with years of hard-fought experience. He challenged for his first title in 1998, when Alvarez was just eight years old. And while his list of opponents is no more star-studded that Alvarez’s, Rhodes has been at it a long time and knows what he’s doing. He’s not going to trade with the younger man. There’s no reason for Rhodes to fight brave when he can fight smart.

“Rhodes will be hard to beat but I am ready to fulfill my promise to give my home fans the best possible Canelo on the night.”

In his last fight, a title-winning victory over Rhodes’s stablemate Matthew Hatton, there were moments when Alvarez looked vulnerable.

“Matthew put up a gallant effort to survive the 12 rounds and he landed some good shots of his own,” said Rhodes. “But while he proved Alvarez is there to be hit, I’m a much harder puncher. And although he is undefeated, the only four losses on my record all came when I went up to middleweight. This lad is a good offensive boxer with good combinations and a lot of variety in his punching, but his defense is open. It will be interesting to see what happens when I connect with his chin.”

Not if Alvarez has any say in the matter: “I feel that my boxing has really taken me to the top and [my fans] really appreciate the way I fight and the way I box. You know, yes, it’s a combination. It has something to do with the hair. People like it but they’re not just going to follow me because I have red hair. I feel that I can back it up because I can fight as well and at the end of the day, the bottom line is the boxing skills. And I’ve been winning.

“This is a very tough fight. Ryan Rhodes is a tough customer and we got to get past this fight. There’s nothing written in stone, so after this fight, if everything comes out okay, then we’ll sit down and talk. We’re concentrating on Ryan Rhodes and it’s a big obstacle.”

If Canelo keeps winning, and there’s no reason to think that trend won’t continue Saturday night, he has his eyes on boxing’s biggest prize.

“While I will have to be at my best against Rhodes,” Alvarez said, “I expect to be ready for Manny next year.”

“The only fight they will be wanting after Saturday night,” countered Rhodes, “is a rematch with me.”

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

HBO Boxing: Ring Life - Canelo Alvarez (HBO)

Saul "Canelo" Alvarez Highlights

HBO Boxing: Saul "Canelo" Alvarez: Canelo's Heart (HBO)

Saul "Canelo" Alvarez talks Baldomir, fame and Chavez Jr.

Ryan Rhodes vs Luca Messi Part 1/3

Ryan Rhodes vs Luca Messi Part 2/3

Ryan Rhodes vs Luca Messi Part 3/3

Boxer Ryan Rhodes interview after stopping Luca Messi

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  1. "Old Yank" Schneider 09:09pm, 06/27/2011

    UNPROVEN is the best description of Alvarez. HBO hype and some substance behind it—but still unproven.

  2. Joe 06:59am, 06/15/2011

    No doubt, I love aggressive fighters but I really love guys who let their hands go and block punches and move their head more.  Once this guy figures out how to avoid punches he’s going to become a superstar.  At this point in his career (and he’s a baby) he gets hit WAY too much.  Keep those hands up Red!!!!

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